The scope and nature of ultrarunner sponsorship has changed greatly in 2008. One primary cause of this change is the former 800-pound gorilla of ultrarunner sponsorship, Montrail, greatly reduced the size of their team. That change is in large part responsible for the significant trend towards sponsorship focusing more narrowly on elite ultramarathoners. Another trend among sponsorship is towards a balkanization of sponsorship – previously most sponsorship was through constellations of manufacturers banding together to equip their respective teams, where as now it seems that more companies are sponsoring ultrarunners individually – allowing runners to team up with the makes of all their favorite shoes, gear, and nutritional products. Though the magnitude of this trend seems to be lessening somewhat as a number of major sponsors ally with complimentary manufacturers to help outfit their teams.
After the break is a summary of the ultrarunning teams that will have more than a dozen ultrarunners in ’08. Check back next week for an analysis of the smaller teams and the following week for information on some major sponsors of individual ultrarunners.
[Please let me know if you have any corrections or additions to the following team descriptions.]
As alluded to above, Montrail was the ultrarunning team for a number of years. Montrail was by far the biggest team and it would be hard to argue that it didn’t have the best stable of American ultrarunners. However, over recent years the team swelled to an unmanageable size – topping out at almost 90 runners last year. Such a team was unsustainable and Montrail (or Columbia) pared the team down to around 15 runners this year. According to Montrail, the current team consists of race directors, retailers, and teachers. In addition to runners Montrail didn’t re-up because they didn’t fall into these categories are some runners who left the team for financial or philosophical reasons.
As a side note, I was among the many who were not brought back by Montrail this year and I don’t have any hard feelings. For one, Montrail did offer a pro-deal to runners who were let go. (This year I’ve already ordered the Streak and Hardrock 08.) The only thing I wish Montrail had done differently in the process would have been to notify team members earlier than late-November so the team’s elite runners (not myself) would have been better able to secure sponsorship for 2008.
It is worth noting that for the first time that I know of Montrail is beginning the year as the sole name sponsor of the team. Until Columbia purchased Montrail back in the summer of ’06, the team was the Montrail-Patagonia team. After the Columbia purchase, I seem to recall that the team was briefly just the Montrail team before becoming the Montrail-Nathan team from late-2006 through 2007.
Runners returning: Eric Grossman, Matt Hart, David Horton, Sean Meissner,
Runners gained: None
Runners lost: Karl Meltzer, Andy Jones-Wilkins, Sean Andrish, Kyle Scaggs and many others
Last year, Inov-8 made itself known as an ultrarunner sponsor, but it stepped up this year – growing the team to almost 30 runners. The Inov-8 team might not include many of the dozen or so biggest names in the sport, but it now includes a vast number of big-time ultra studs and studettes.
The Inov-8 team blog is another noteworthy achievement. Mark Lundblad, the team manager and blogger-in-chief, has succeed where previous efforts at ultrarunning team blogs have failed. At the Inov-8 team blog you can read team member bios, stay abreast of where team members will be racing and how they do, and learn about Inov-8 products. Check it out.
Runners returning: Anne and Mark Lundblad, John Basham, Steve Burton, Andrew Thompson
Runners gained: Sean Andrish, Kevin Sullivan, Clark Zealand, Wynn Davis, Akos Konya, Brian Morrison; [UPDATE 4/2: Andy Jones-Wilkins (just added)]
Runners lost: [Unknown – Please let me know]
Mostly Complete Inov-8 Team Roster
Another company that has stepped this year is La Sportiva. Prior to this year, I knew La Sportiva had a team, but wrongly thought it consisted entirely of trail runners specializing in races up to the marathon. With the addition of 13 runners in 2008 including the likes of Karl Meltzer, Eric Skaggs, the McDowells and 9 others, La Sportiva and the La Sportiva Mountain Running Team should make itself more well known among ultrarunners this year.
Runners returning: Anita Ortiz, Buzz Burrell, Jared Campbell, Sara Montgomery, Derrick Spafford, Emily Baer
Runners gained: Karl Meltzer, Petra and Nate McDowell, Eric Scaggs, Thomas Reiss
Runners lost: Tony Krupicka
Complete La Sportiva Mountain Running Team Roster
The Patagonia Ultrarunning Team has evolved somewhat differently than the Inov-8 or La Sportiva squads. Rather than growing incrementally from year-to-year, it seems to have slowly and steadily grown since quietly starting sometime after the Montrail-Patagonia partnership split. Heck, I can’t even figure out exactly who’s on the team now.
Runners returning: [Like I said, heck if I know!]
Runners gained: Andy Jones-Wilkins, Ty Draney, Brian Morrison, Krissy Moehl, Scott Wolfe
Runners lost: None (as far as I know)
Thanks to all those that have helped me fill in some blanks and even to those who created new ones!